It’s the season of honeysuckle and privet, of peonies, iris, and azaleas. Trees decked out in full, fresh green, unlike the worn-out color they’ll be showing come Labor Day. Walk outside and take in the intoxicating fragrance and colors of high spring, here for only a few more weeks. (If you are the sneezy type and cannot partake, I am truly sorry.)
It’s also the season of dandelions and clover and violets and other natural ground covers that most people refer to as weeds. How do I know? Because we don’t mow – at least not until we absolutely must. To our neighbors’ chagrin, we let the wild grow wild.
It started when our third (fourth?) lawnmower was stolen, which was around the time we started noticing the lack of bees, but before Bernard started the daylily project. It wasn’t a specific decision or statement of protest, and I have protested in the process, as we’ve tried to find a balance between honoring the Earth and thwarting a visit from code enforcement.
But intentional or not at the onset, we’re now comfortable being the un-manicured yard people. We (meaning Bernard) will mow in places, of course. Where the zoysia from our neighbor’s yard has spread, on its own, into ours, we’ll keep it. (It is very pretty grass.) The curb strip is a challenge we’re pondering. Something heat-resistant and tolerant of dog piss that won’t spread too far into the street or sidewalk. (Red clover? Creeping thyme? A rock garden?) We’re working on it, and in the interim letting the clover and dandelions that are there come to flower before we cut them.
Apparently we are not alone in being responsible to nature but irresponsible to the neighborhood association. Margaret Renkl is the misbehaving in this particular way in Nashville, as she wrote a couple of weeks ago (To Nurture Nature, Neglect Your Lawn). In the Northeast, “where summers are often wet, and … the green lawn still reigns,” Ronda Kaysen is done with mowing.
Other things I’ve been reading while not tending the yard:
An update on Heather Armstrong, “queen of the mommy bloggers” (I have always hated the term “mommy bloggers”)
My book group read Mrs. Caliban (written in the early ’80s and recently rediscovered). I loved it, but I was in the minority (within my group). It is a perfectly ordinary story about perfectly ordinary, if sad, people, one of whom happens to be a sea monster (the convention that draws the reader long enough to get absorbed fully in the ordinary lives of ordinary people).
I’ve also been reading lots of articles about how to use MailChimp, but I’ll spare you that.
My daughter came home several weeks ago and announced that she wanted to become vegan. “I’ve looked at some of the projections, and it appears the Earth may not be here for me when I’m you’re age, unless we make some dramatic changes.” Yes, she said that entirely on her own. (And I thought immediately of my friend Frank, the doctor and fellow cook, who has been admonishing me for years about our meat-heavy diet, as I wrote a couple of years ago.)
I suggested we start with a couple of nights a week, and that we start with bean-and-rice variations because everyone in our house enjoys them. And beans-and-rice dishes are normal things, not made-up substitutions disguised as something else. Vegan crème brûlée? I think not. No fake foods.
Which is what I had wrong about vegan cooking. Sure, there is the “imposter foods” approach. But there are also recipes that just showcase the goods as they are meant to be. Say, a combination of shredded red cabbage, cilantro, carrots, ginger, and lime-peanut dressing (made that up on the fly as I was typing, but it sounds good, yes?).
And then, for an added boost, my daughter worked a shift at Raw Girls, a local vegan food truck. To support my daughter, I bought two bags of prepared salads and entrees, thinking they would most likely go into our compost heap. So when I tell you they were delicious, what I mean is that they were fucking delicious. Like, I-would-buy-them-again-and-again, wish-I-had-the-recipe delicious. (And this from a woman who’s never met a dairy-based dish she didn’t like.)
Will we still eat gyros and pork tenderloin with Jacko’s pepper jelly? Of course we will. Ditto cream in my coffee. Just a little less of those things, because if everyone does a little then no one need do it all.
Going to try these recipes, as a result, all from Cookie and Kate:
- Peanut Slaw with Soba Noodles
- Crunchy Thai Peanut and Quinoa Salad (See a peanut theme? My grandfather grew peanuts; I love them.)
- Thai Green Curry with Spring Vegetables
- West African Peanut Soup (you’ll remember that I love this dish generally, and this recipe is a good one)
- Sugar Snap Pea and Carrot Soba Noodles
Also: This is still a developing story….
… of course we are still going to eat meat from our friend Farmer Cris at Renaissance Farms, who raises cows, pigs, and chickens. Today we took Chris a present in honor of his sire mangalitsa pig who is named Baby Daddy. (Thank you Me & Mrs. Jones for the addition to creating things with chalk paint and Iron Orchid Designs stamps.)
Listening & Watching
I’ve been listening again to Southern Hollows, a terrific podcast from my friend Stinson. It perfectly captures the strange darkness of the South.
I always enjoy Katie Hunt’s Proof to Product (if you are interested in having any kind of product-based business, you’ll enjoy it, too). I’d gotten behind and have spent my time on the bike (still can’t play tennis or walk for exercise – dammit) catching up with old episodes. I cannot wait to hear the reveal on Katie’s super secret project. You may recall that I wrote about Katie a few months ago. She started a wedding stationery business in her spare bedroom (a very common origin story), and that experience led to creating a business that helps other product-based businesses get launched and scale up.
Other listening: Michelle Obama reading Becoming. I encourage you to listen to it, even if you’ve decided you don’t want to and especially if you think you don’t like her. A deeply Republican friend confided (in a whisper) how much she enjoyed the book, and how sorry she was so many of her friends were going to miss out on it just because… well, you know why. It’s your loss if you skip it, I promise.
At a friend’s suggestion, I turned on Killing Eve while everyone in my family took a post-Easter brunch nap. I watched the entire first season, start to finish, before turning out the light (at 1 a.m.) (not kidding). It’s funny and dramatic and quirky and compelling and entirely unlike anything else. Give it a try.
Work & Writing
Last weekend was the inaugural Kindred Table dinner, a new event to help support Kindred Place, where I work. The meal, prepared by local chef José Gutierrez, was lovely, and the wine pairings, suggested by my pals at Joe’s, were terrific.
But the real highlights of the night were the speaker, who told a powerful story about living in a home where love and violence share the same roof, and the guests who gave her a standing ovation. And we raised some money, for which I am eternally grateful.
(And, I don’t remember to include this often enough: If you are in Memphis and know someone who also lives with both love and violence in the same home, I hope you’ll send your friend our way – whether that friend is the victim or the aggressor. Our counselors understand the unique yin and yang of this particular dynamic, and they are here to help.)
Pulling this event together, and continuing the refresh of our 35-year-old organization showed me again how lucky I am to work with the people on our team. They bring an ideal blend of strengths in both leadership and management (what to do, and how to get it done). Lucky me. (For more on the idea of WHAT and HOW, here’s the latest post I wrote for the Kindred Place blog.)
Next on deck…
Next week we’ll decide, the ortho doc and I, whether or not surgery is the right answer for the tear in my knee. If yes, then more reading, writing, and watching are ahead. Stay tuned.